The issue regarding the Kulo Exhibition at the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) has been wearing me off for more than a week now. I actually haven’t seen it nor do I expect to see it soon since it has already been closed by the institution. However, connections in the art world have afforded me with images of the said exhibition.
Personally, I wasn’t shocked to see the images. I have seen and even studied far “offensive” (as others have coined) works before.
I would like to assume that this controversy is indeed a conflict arising from “ways of seeing”. Art requires a certain way of looking. It requires a keen eye. It requires a specific process to be able to digest and understand visual stimuli. In art, you don’t see things as they are. Things are always beyond what they look like and what they are. Every element is a symbol which has a corresponding meaning which does not necessarily equate to its universal definition. Some icons are stripped off their natural essence so as to incorporate new ones as derived from the other elements around them. I believe this goes the exact way as Cruz’s. But even how deep or profound you might be looking at them, judgment however will always be anchored with personal biases and preferences. This is where some spectators have fall short.
Cruz’s work, Poleteismo, presents a spectrum of so-called Filipino idolatry. Thus, the imagery of pop icons and politicians whom Filipinos listen to, emulate, and even worship, are part of the installation. The crucifix and all other elements surrounding it requires decontextualization (stripping off meaning) in order to inculcate a nouvelle meaning. Therefore, the crucifix should be viewed not as a sacred material, but as a sign with a rather different social significance.
Cruz’s work reflected an overlooked facet of the Filipino way of living – the mishmash of materials (medals, certificates, posters, cards,photographs, calendars, jewelries) stuck on the corners of houses which discreetly and subconsciously affect ways of thinking and living.
Artist Mideo Cruz’s piece from the Kulo Exhibit has already been shown at other museums and galleries. Only now, in its staging at CCP has it caused too much noise. People have reacted, judged and let out words too soon. Government officials and the clergy have been throwing balls of fire to the artist and to CCP. Sensationalism is at its peak again.
I feel sorry that CCP has decided to close down the exhibit. It should have been the institution that have fought for the artist’s “freedom of expression” as it is the one who approved of the work being brought to the public. Some might have said that CCP was not the right venue for Cruz’s work. I would like to believe that CCP would have been one legitimate space for such work as it is descriptive of the Filipino’s belief. And that the clergy and the government has been entirely alarmed of this work, doesn’t it further magnify our existing incongruous society? We declare that we’re free and we’re moving forward, but this mentality dates centuries back. The people who are distressed about this issue are the same Friars and Gobernadorcillos, with the same exaggeration contributed by Hollywood.
I assume that this issue of endless rebuttals is just a matter of perspectives. It is only a matter of looking at things at different angles and looking at them in the appropriate context. Conflicting ideas will of course, be inevitable, but there will always be a common ground as to where peace and understanding resides. This issue have caused too much squalor and damage. Let us move on and focus on things that are meant to constitute our time. Let the government officials resolve relevant problems of the nation. Let the clergy lead in showing people true religion. Let artists continue practicing their art.
*The opinion I have expressed in this post does not necessarily reflect the views of the institution I am affiliated with.